ITEM PHOTO BY KATIE MORRISON
Lynnfield second doubles player Allison Carey reaches to return a shot.
By ANNE MARIE TOBIN
LEXINGTON — Much has been written about the rising numbers of young athletes who specialize in their primary sports at increasingly younger ages, thinking it will enhance the opportunities for college athletic scholarships or making it on a professional level.
Opponents cite a rise in injuries due to stress on the body because of increased training volume as well a mental fatigue and premature burnout.
Apparently, the people in the “nay” camp are unfamiliar with the two-time defending state champion Martha’s Vineyard girls tennis team, which stormed into the finals of the state Division 3 championship yesterday with a 5-0 sweep over North champion Lynnfield at the sizzling Gallagher Tennis Court Complex.
The Vineyarders put on a dominant display and made short work of it, clinching the match in just 45 minutes after Lizzie Williamson and Hannah Rabasca defeated Lynnfield’s Katie Nugent and Alexa Vittigilo, 6-1, 6-2, in the first singles match to secure the game-winning point.
Vineyarders’ Kelly Klaren secured her team’s first point, needing just 40 minutes to down Camie Foley, 6-0, 6-0 in second singles.
According to Klaren, tennis is the only game in town for the Vineyarders’ starting seven .
“We are just tennis players, we play year-round tennis and it’s the only sport we play, it’s all we do,” said Klaren. “We have been playing together since we started playing together as kids at Vineyard Youth Tennis. Playing just tennis all year round has definitely made the difference for our team. We are more physically fit and mentally tougher, and while it was so hot, we had that edge.”
Klaren will get no arguments from Katie Nevils, who dropped her match at third singles to Rebecca Scott, 6-0, 6-1.
“I knew what I needed to do to beat her, but the heat got to me and it didn’t get to her,” said Nevils. “I heard she trained in Florida, so she is used to the heat and all she plays is tennis.”
Foley, along with four-year first singles player Sarah Mezini, are the only two Lynnfield players who play off-season tennis.
After last season, Foley resolved to secure the second singles spot and made the decision to play winter tennis after the fall volleyball season ended.
“I was bound and determined to move up and I knew I had to make a full commitment to get it,” said Foley, who also won a north sectional volleyball title along tennis teammates Katie Nugent and Laura Mucci. “Sarah is really our only player who specializes, and I think if we all played year round like they do, we would be just as good.”
Lynnfield coach Craig Stone said he knew going into the match that he was going up against a very deep and talented team; in fact, the best Martha’s Vineyard team in the three years they have faced the Vineyarders.
“There was no dark horse here, we knew they were the strongest we would see in three years,” said Stone. “Their top two singles players are USTA top 40 players, and frankly we just had a few more multi-sport kids who play tennis only in the spring, so that was a big advantage for them. But I am all for multi-sport athletes, I think the cross training in multiple sports definitely has value.”
Tournament director Bob Lospennato, former Revere High athletic director and girls tennis coach, agrees.
“My experience has been that kids who are all-around athletes and play multiple sports actually makes their primary sport better,” he said. “I used to love it when my tennis players played basketball. The lateral foot movements and the constant crossovers helped their footwork on the court and I honestly feel that if you are good in one sport, you probably are good in the others. I’d take a multi-sport athlete any day.”
According to a recent survey conducted by US Youth Soccer, the vast majority of college soccer coaches agrees with Lospennato.
That survey was sent to 500 Division 1 coaches. Of the 221 who responded, 93 percent said they would prefer a player who played multiple sports, in addition to soccer.
As far as Pioneers’ tennis goes, Stone said it will be an uphill battle next year.
“We are losing six of seven starters, including the only two who played off season tennis and I expect that after another year of year-round tennis and, with their entire team coming back, they (Martha’s Vineyard) will be that much deeper and talented.”